Online Reviews and Local SEO – Friend or Foe?

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Word of mouth is one of the greatest tools for small business to grow. Indeed, a significant number of our new clients for web design and marketing come via this powerful tool. Did you know that the ‘Internet Review Gods’ are cracking down on, wait for it, “fake reviews?”

Before you ask your friends and family to generate all kinds of positive reviews for your business, consider this – while industry estimates suggest that up to 60 percent of prospective customers read reviews before they make a purchase, they are more likely to avoid your company if you have scads of positive reviews without negative reviews, feeling that your company is not authentic.

Ways to spot fake reviews:

  • They are blocked in dates, for example, several on the same date.
  • The reviewer has left multiple reviews on the same day, frequently with similar verbiage.
  • The review is in Pidgin English with major spelling or grammatical errors or sounding like it is straight from translating software.
  • Several reviews include direct quotes of the copy from the product or page.
  • Every review rates the company with the maximum number of stars and there are no neutral or negative reviews.
  • For products on Amazon, the reviews do not show the reviewer as having a verified purchase of an item that they reviewed.
  • Sometimes, having several positive reviews after a less-than-glowing review can signal review manipulation.

How positive and negative online reviews fit into your marketing strategy

To attract local customers, companies need to target their marketing campaign to their specific location. Many times, this local SEO (search engine optimization) includes asking current customers for reviews at the point of sale or by a follow-up interaction. Some companies offer a small gift card or discount for giving an online review, typically valued at about $5. This usually gives results, but since the reviewers are being incentivized, the reviews are usually highly positive, potentially creating the impression of fake reviews, which they are to some degree. While a popular and effective way to gain online reviews, incentives, contests, etc. do not have the authenticity of genuine online reviews.

Negative reviews give your company a unique opportunity and can become a highly effective way to gain new customers or improve customer loyalty. When you monitor your online reviews (which we know that you do regularly, right?) and run across a negative review, the first response is often to want to hide it. This is a huge mistake. First of all, you should investigate the claims made about your company. Take care of these issues privately and then reach out to the customer publicly by responding to the review online. Apologize for the problem, misunderstanding, etc. and request to “make things right.” By doing so, you are demonstrating your company’s exemplary customer service publicly. After the customer is satisfied, ask them to update their review to reflect their feelings after your resolution.

Please contact us if you are ready to expand your online presence and team up with professional web designers and marketers, with solutions that are tailored to your company.

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